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Peking Opera joins industrial era

By Cheng Yuezhu | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-28 07:47
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The cast of modern Peking Opera Nongchao (Riding the Tides) takes a curtain call at the China National Opera House in Beijing on May 18.CHINA DAILY

Performance centers on port operations and brings new vitality to traditional art form, Cheng Yuezhu reports.

At Qingdao Port in Shandong province, there are numerous containers being loaded, discharged or transported day and night, yet normally no one is in sight.

The modern Peking Opera production Nongchao (Riding the Tides) sheds light on the port, which is the first fully automated container terminal in Asia, and Zhang Liangang and his Liangang Innovation Team, who made it come true.

Coproduced by the port's owner, the Shandong Port Group, and the Qingdao Performing Arts Group, and performed by the Qingdao Peking Opera Theater, the production graced the stage of the China National Opera House in Beijing on May 18.

The storyline revolves around Zhang, a senior expert of the port group and a key figure in the development and construction of the automated terminal. Back in 2013, Zhang took on the challenge of leading a team to build an automated terminal, despite undergoing lung cancer surgery five years previously.

At the time, the crucial technologies were dominated by industrial giants of developed countries. Without any resources, experience or external support, Zhang led a team of 25 in a pioneering effort to develop their own solutions.

After countless meetings, plans and tests, the team completed a detailed terminal design in just 15 months, and the terminal was put into service in 2017, with world-leading operational efficiency.

Zhang's inspiring story and unwavering commitment led to the Peking Opera production. After the performing arts project was initiated, the production crew, led by Lu Ang, chief director and professor at the Shanghai Theatre Academy, embarked on a field trip to the port to gain insight into its construction and operation.

"I went on the trip with more than 20 questions prepared, during which many things moved us deeply. In fact, many stories on stage now are based on the real experiences of real individuals," Lu says.

Apart from how Zhang Liangang led the team through challenges while personally battling adverse health conditions, Lu found the experiences of the other members from the Liangang Innovation Team touching, pioneering and inspiring.

Examples of these real stories include that of team member Xu Yongning, who works at the port construction project during the day and looks after his ill wife at the hospital at night, or that of Li Yongcui, the only female engineer of the team, who leads a sub-team in the development of the equipment control system.

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